Journal of immunology (Baltimore, Md. : 1950)

Proliferation conditions promote intrinsic changes in NK cells for an IL-10 response.

PMID 24907347


Constitutively found at high frequencies, the role for NK cell proliferation remains unclear. In this study, a shift in NK cell function from predominantly producing IFN-γ, a cytokine with proinflammatory and antimicrobial functions, to producing the immunoregulatory cytokine IL-10 was defined during extended murine CMV infection. The response occurred at times subsequent to IL-12 production, but the NK cells elicited acquired responsiveness to IL-12 and IL-21 for IL-10 production. Because neither IL-12 nor IL-21 was required in vivo, however, additional pathways appeared to be available to promote NK cell IL-10 expression. In vitro studies with IL-2 to support proliferation and in vivo adoptive transfers into murine CMV-infected mice demonstrated that NK cell proliferation and further division enhanced the change. In contrast to the sustained open profile of the IFN-γ gene, NK cells responding to infection acquired histone modifications in the IL-10 gene indicative of changing from a closed to an open state. The IL-10 response to IL-12 was proliferation dependent ex vivo if the NK cells had not yet expanded in vivo but independent if they had. Thus, a novel role for proliferation in supporting changing innate cell function is reported.